Learning How to Argue: Using Hypotheticals
Learning how to argue is one of the most difficult lessons for a student new to a field like law or mathematics, which has a rich structure and its own specialized modes of reasoning. Not only must the student be in command of a large body of material, but must also be adept at structuring what is said in acceptable rhetorical and inferential styles. For instance, in high school geometry, one must learn to cite theorems (e.g., side-angle-side) as justification for certain conclusions (e.g., triangle congruence) and learn not to rely too heavily on overly suggestive diagrams or special cases. In the Anglo-American legal system, one learns to argue according to the mode of stare decisis, the doctrine of precedent, which includes citing and arguing from precedents, for instance, by establishing analogies with those precedents favorable to one's position and by differentiating it from unfavorable ones.